SERMO O PSALM FIFTY FIVE W. J.

STRACEY My heart is disquieted within me ; and the fear of death is fallen upon me— Psalm Iv. 4. THE double reference whicli almost every Psalm undoubtedly bas, first to David, and afterwards to David's greater Son according to tbe flesb, our Lord Jesus Cbrist, in some point of tbeir bistory, is singularly remarkable in tbis Psalm. For tbe passage in David's life to wbicb it clearly refers, we must look to tbe fifteentb and seventeentb cbapters of tbe Second Book of Samuel, but especially to tbe tbirty-first verse of tbe fifteentb cbapter. David was now old, and it was uncertain wbicb of bis many sons would succeed to bis tbronc ; tbis led to scbemes and conspiracies again and again. Here it is Absalom wbo aimed at accession to tbe Tbrone of bis fatber, even bjtbe ruin and ejectment of bis fatber during bis lifetime. By fair speecbes and promises be stole away tbe hearts of many of tbe people to support bim, and to detbrone bis fatber David, and drive bim out of Jerusalem. Amongst tbose wbo joined bim in tbis Avicked conspiracy was Abitbopbcl, wbo bad been tbe

AinriioPHEL. 27 intimate adviser and friend of David. It was a bitter ingredient in Ms ciip of sorrow to hear of his treachery and desertion. "We read in that fifteenth chapter, verse thirty-first, which is the key to this Psalm in its relation to David, "And one told David, saying, Ahithophel is among the conspirators with Absalom. And David said, O Lord, I pray Thee, turn the counsel of Ahithophel into foolishness." Here was

one of his best friends and most constant and intimate advisers, selected for his prudence and skill, turned into his most bitter and dangerous enemy, offering his services and counsel to David's treacherous and unnatural son, for his (David's) destruction. If we bear this incident in mind, it explains to us almost every word of this Psalm. It explains to us the beginning of it, " Take heed unto me, and hear me ; how I mourn in my prayer and am vexed. The enemy crieth so, and the ungodly cometh on so fast; for they are minded to do me some mischief, so maliciously are they set against me." Again, it explains to us so well these verses, " Deceit and guile go not out of their streets. For it is not an open enem}^ that hath done me this dishonour: for then I could have borne it. I^f either was it mine adversary that did magnify himself against me, for then would I have hid myself from him. But it was even thou, my companion, my guide, and mine own familiar friend. We took sweet counsel together, and walked in the

28

FSALM L V.

house of God as friends." Then it explains to us the assurance of their faihire, destruction, and speedy death, which all came to pass almost immediately. God caused the advice of Hushai, David's real friend, to be accepted in preference to that of Ahithophel, by which, humanly speaking, David's life was saved. But ''when Ahithophel saw that his counsel was not followed, he

saddled his ass, and arose, and gat him home to his house, to his city, and put his household in order, and hanged himself, and died, and was buried in the sepulchre of his father." ow, this end of Ahithophel, sudden, and by his own hand, so immediately after his treachery to David, connects his history, and so this Psalm at once with its parallel under the Gospel. Compare the position, conduct, and end of Aphithophel with that of the traitor Judas, and we have an exact parallel. Judas was one of our Lord's daih* companions, hearing His words, seeingHis miracles, and having power given to him as to the other eleven, to cast out de^-ils, and to do manj- wonderful works; but he became the traitor. Knowing our Lord's private habits and hours of devotion, and His frequent resort to the Garden of Gethscmane while others slept, when He was at Jerusalem, Judas there betrayed his Master into the hands of his enemies, biit in a moment of fruitless remorse went tlie very same day and hanged himself, and so departed hopelessly into utter perdition. How exact are the two histories in all their princij^al

THE TWO PARALLELS. 29 features. On one side there are David, Aliithophel, treachery, and suicide : on the other there are Christ, .Tildas, treachery, and suicide by the very same means. And so too, as the verse I have specially selected for my text expresses David's feelings at the moment, "My heart is disquieted within me, and the fear of death is fallen upon me," we know how well these words describe that solemn moment in our blessed Lord's life, when He was in His Agony in the garden, when His sweat was drops of blood, forced through His skin by intense mental agony, and He prayed that the bitter cup which was so close at hand, might, if possible, pass away from Him. Yet onl}", if so it were

the Father's Avill, " ot my Avill, but Thine be done." "My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death." Some persons we know think it a part of true faith, indeed a sure mark and assurance of their faith, to speak of death in the most careless and confident terms. They speak as though to say with David in my text, " The fear of death is fallen upon me," would rather argue that they had not fully accepted in their hearts the Christian scheme of Salvation. They forget our Lord's fear of death when the hour was come upon Him, and He had to meet it as fully and completely as we each in turn have ; and they turn perhaps to such expressions of S. Paul as, " To me to live is (Jhrist, and to die is gain; " '' I desire to depart and to be with Christ which is far better;" "I am now ready

30 PSALM L V. to be offered, and tlie time of my departure is at hand, I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the Faith." And then, forgetting that they are no more like S. Paul than at best the shadow of a thing is like the substance and the living reality, they think it right and well to take all S. Paul's words to themselves, and claim to be themselves in this respect like him. And it is true, my brethren, if we were each a true Paul in heart and in life, giving up all in this life for Christ's sake, labouring more abundantly than any Apostle, daily for years undergoing dangers and hardships by sea and land, sufferings and persecutions again and again, as he did, and if through all we, like S. Paul, were preserved till, like him, we suffered a martyr's death, then we, like him, might perhaps speak as confidently of the Crown of righteousness laid up in Heaven for us, as did the great Apostle. But not so in

our stunted and imperfect following of Christ compared to his. My brethren, I think it a good thing and a wholesome thing for a person to have at least sometimes in life, and certainly on his deathbed, a feeling such as my text expresses, "My heart is disquieted within me, and the fear of death is fallen upon me." For does it not argue the greatest possible presumption for persons like ourselves — Christians of these days — to think and to speak of passing out of this visible world into the

WHO FEAR DEATH LEAST. 3 1 world of sj)irits, laying aside that tabernacle of flesh. in which we have so long dwelt to go into the more immediate presence of God, and of Christ our Lord, there to associate only with other departed spirits, and to know that we have each to go through a trial for life before a just and impartial judge, to have then and there recalled to mind all our past life on earth, all our past thoughts, all our forgotten words and deeds ? To know all this, then, is it not presumption, or pride, or blindness for anyone to say he has no fear of death ever falling upon him? A humble Christian (and to be high in God's sight we must be humble) alive to his own sins and shortcomings, but one who tries to love God, and to do His will, yet feels that he is continually drawn aside by his own infirmities or besetting sins, he surely will ever feel a trust mingled with fear, an assurance indeed of God's mercy, and protection, and care of him, but with a sense of his own great im worthiness to be the object of so great a love on the part of Almighty God. Such an one will on his dying bed, if not often before, feel what my text expresses, "My heart is disquieted within me, and the fear of death is fallen upon me." There are few of us of any age but must have witnessed a dying bed, or we have

read or heard of such. And is it not the result of our own experiences in life that they generally fear death lead who have most reason to fear death ? Surely, brethren, it is a sign of faith and of grace

32 PSALM LV. when the sinner shrinks from the thoughts of death and fears to appear in the immediate Presence of God, knowing his own nnworthiness, and yet has hope, through Christ, that for His sake God will deal mercifully with him at the great Judgment day. Other men, whose sinful lives have glared in full before the world, pass away oftentimes with the hard presumption of a nature callous to all good and holy impressions. Judas courted death instead of fearing it. So did that other traitor — Ahithophel. But let us pray so to live in God's true faith and fear, so to love God and to love one another, that we may have a good hope of Salvation in our last hours of life, that in the humility of our conscious nnworthiness we may on our dying bed — in our last estate — not only have a good hope of Salvation, but feel also this, " My heart is disquieted within me, and the fear of death is fallen upon me."

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